After 45 years touring the country and the globe, the Marshall Tucker Band shows no signs of slowing down.
Among the most iconic groups in Southern Country Rock, the band has tour and produced albums more or less non-stop since the early 1970’s. Following the 1973 release of “Can’t You See”, to this day the band’s most popular single, the Marshall Tucker Band has continued thrilling thousands with its blend of classic country, rock and jam band sounds. In the ensuing four decades, band members say many of their fans have told them that they turned to the band’s music for some of their most memorable celebrations and as a respite from some of their deepest troubles. Bolstered by appearances at high profile music festivals and having their music played on television programs, the group continues to draw new, younger fans.
The band plans to continue touring til at least 2020, but in the meantime the Marshall Tucker Band will be in Leesburg for a concert June 15 at the Tally Ho Theater. Ahead of the show lead singer Doug Gray spoke with the Tribune about what the band’s legacy has meant personally, and what he expects for his latest performance.
What does it mean for you and your band mates to come back to Leesburg to perform at Tally Ho?
We’re looking forward to coming back to the Tally Ho simply because we have such a good time there. It’s almost like I can look at everybody’s eyes and see what’s going on. You get to know people. You get to see them on the sidewalk afterwards and we’re not a band to shy away. When you play at a place like Tally Ho, you walk out, you hang out before hand, you hang out afterward and that’s what we were all about at the very beginning. If it wasn’t for our friends to come see us, we wouldn’t have been anything nor would we have lasted 45 years.
What kind of performance should people expect at the concert?
They’ll always hear the traditional songs that we play and we’ll play them as close to the original sound as we can possibly do, but I tell my guys ‘let’s branch out a little bit’, and let’s show these people that we were a jam band in the 1970’s. I don’t like three-and-a-half minute radio love songs. I never have. Nobody in the band ever did, but we started making hits and they had to make them three-and-a-half minutes, so now people expect to hear them three-and-a-half minutes long.
The band has gone through several line up changes over the past 45 years but has been pretty consistent for the last 20 or so. Do people still compare the former incarnations to the current one?
People still say this is a new band. This isn’t a new band. This band has been with me for 25 years. When people say ‘I don’t like the new band’ or ‘I don’t like this person in the new band’ they don’t realize this band has been there for 25 years. We don’t sound any different.
Your music continues to be popular with younger generations. What do you think attracts younger fans to your music?
They know that we’re up there and we’re moving and we’re not being stale sitting them with that ole’ rock n’ roll syndrome where when someone gets old they get old and they keep playing the same thing over and over. We just don’t do that. Our downloads from the computer are mostly from 18 to 57 years old. That’s why we’ve been signed on to new things is because you can look at there and when you come to a show you’ll see some person who is nine years old or 10 years old and they’ll come to us afterward and tell me that their grandpa used to make their mama sit in the back of her car seat and listen to ‘Heard it in a Love Song’ over and over. I’ve heard that story many times. It’s truly amazing that these people are coming to us now.
What was it like getting to perform and tour with the Allman Brothers, who like you are among the most famous names in Southern Country Rock?
My relationship with (the late) Greg Allman was very, very strong. He showed me more respect than just about anybody in the music business by saying some of the shortest things that he could say. We’d be opening for him and he would say ‘how in the world are we supposed to follow that.’ For four years we opened for the Allman Brothers on the road, even though after two years we could have headlined on our own. We decided to stay with them because of the brotherhood. If there’s ever such a nice thing as the perfect brotherhood, that’s the kind to have, along with the military.
You’ve also performed alongside other music luminaries like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels. What’s been like being around some of the biggest names in music?
All these other people have had more respect for me. The first time we played the Grand Ole Opry, Little Jimmie Dickens, who is a historical figure in country music, invited me to come up to his dressing room. He said ‘I want to take a picture with you.’ He said ‘you’re one of the legends I have never had a picture with.’ I was thinking ‘something is not right. I’m in some sort of dream.’ I remembered Kitty Wells, another world famous country singer that passed away recently, she covered some of our songs too. It’s emotional songs that have drawn us into everybody’s understanding.
After all the years do you still have that same thrill at a concert that you had when it all began?
I’m still flabbergasted. I’m still excited to keep doing this. I can’t wait to shake the next person’s hand, whether they’re eight or nine years old all the way to 90.
Why do people value your band and your music so much?
You might not be able to give them money. Who cares about money anyway. But you can give them an opportunity to forget about the troubles in their life. Whether it be working for eight hours, or I have to get up in the morning and go to work for eight hours. Or I don’t have enough money to buy the kids Christmas presents. Or my wife is going to leave me. I forget about that for an hour-and-a-half with Marshall Tucker. I’ve heard people say all this.
What do you want people to walk away with from your performance at Tally Ho?
I want them to go home talking about it. That’s what keeps us selling that place out.